Misadventures with Miso

Misadventures with Miso

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Compass at Departure or Yes Chef Gourdet Can Do Fish with Fruit

  

The other day I had a chance to finally visit Departure Restaurant in Portland. Known for it's roof top view which lived up to their reputation. Sadly the outside was not open but still pretty darn amazing even from inside.


The reason for visiting was the chance for more fine Japanese dining. At a one time seating for the first of a series of dinners called Compass which feature food from different locations in the world.


This was the first dinner which featured Japan. Eight courses put together by a chef in Portland who is rather well known.


Chef Gregory Gourdet, current Top Chef participant who likes to bring the heat.


There was a sake pairing with the meal but since it wasn't stated that it was a separate price prior to the event I just went with a glass of Sakemoto Jumai.


The first dish was a soft egg topped with sake cream and caviar and sprinkled with katsuobushi which is dried bonito. This dish was inspired by Chef Gourdet's cooking days in New York. It was really delicious and a great way to start this meal.


Next up was Oysters Three Ways. Buckley Bay oysters were paired three ways. I believe left to right is pickled cactus and jalapeno juice, trout roe with lemon and dried chili, last iswasabi granita, kyuri and shiso. The salty roe with the fresh oyster made the middle oyster really stand out in flavor.


Nigiri followed the oysters nicely. The toppings were anago, sawara, tako, hiramasa. The anago was simmered in tamari, sake and mirin and was amazing. Softest tako I have eaten and the little bit of chili paste on top actually worked well with it. Excellent nigiri.

This was the either the hiramasa (yellowtail) or sawara (Spanish mackeral). Usually I can tell but both lighter fish were tender and delicious plus I was a bit overwhelmed by how amazing everything. By looking I think it was sawara.


Chef Gourdet came in with each dish to explain what was in each one. Way more ingredients than what I am listing. This was a great dish of Chicken Yakitori. It included chicken skin, spicy chicken liver, Kushiyaki wing & heart with tare. Togarashi which I think was in the liver, yuzu salt, and black rice which was used for the forbidden rice crisp.


Boneless wing or kushiyaki which I really liked. I noticed the guys at the table loved the forbidden rich crisp. If they weren't so fragile I bet they would sell well as a snack at stores. This dish along with the others showed how a chef can add heat to a dish without overwhelming everything. That is something a lot of chefs do not know how to do which is a shame. It really is about balance. Chef Gourdet focus on the components of a dish really stood out here.


Chef Gourdet brought the heat with his Spicy clam broth. Created with smoked pork, scallion, nori and chili paste this was the hottest dish of the night. I really enjoyed the clams which had been seasoned separately from the soup before going in. The pork was well done also. I know several people enjoyed this. The broth was so flavorful it reminded me of ramen.


Saikyo Miso Black Cod with braised walnut in ginger and cider and grilled orange. Chef Gourdet definitely can do fish with fruit. This was the dish of the night. I noticed how quiet it became at our table. Everyone was too busy eating and enjoying. Black cod is one of my favorite fish and next time I cook it I will be using orange or tangerine with it. I'm converted. I can't say enough how wonderful this was. The cod was not overwhelmed by miso yet the skin had a nice saltiness. Everything paired wonderfully.


Following the black cod was Wagyu Beef Sirloin with leek, sunchoke, bourbon barrel aged soy from Bluegrass Soy and I believe a bit of beet. I really do not eat beef but I did just for this. This was quite good but I think the black cod was a tough act to follow plus we were getting a bit full at this point.


Chocolate & Miso Mille Feuille with hazelnut, ginger, and summer plum. Oh my. Along with the black cod, this was a excellent way to end Chef Gourdet's first pop-up meat at Departure. Light pieces of pastry with the hazelnut cream and the chocolate and plum sauces was amazing. I think if we could we would have licked the plates clean.

Overall it was an excellent meal with lovely people and I am definitely impressed by Gregory Gourdet's cooking plus he is a genuinely nice guy. This was a great start to the Compass dining series and I totally recommend it. There are at least two more dinners planned in the coming months. Next is China and then Haiti which is the food Chef Gourdet grew up with so that will be amazing too. I think if they throw in Egypt at some point I would be very much tempted. The Autumn Harvest Vegan dinner also sounds great.

If you want to try one of these dinners or just dine at Departure their website is here.
They are located at 525 SW Morrison St in Portland, OR
503-802-5370

If you can't get to Portland you can still see Gregory Gourdet shine on Top Chef right now. Include me in Team GG. Hoping to see him make it to the end because he definitely knows food and how to make it taste great.

Sunday, October 26, 2014

My Mother Never Cooked Like This

 Portland has so many wonderful older buildings. Often what is inside is just as nice.

Such is Mother's Bistro & Bar. So when friends were visiting Portland we met up here.

One side has a bar area but the better place to dine is under the lovely chandeliers.

We were given nice buttermilk biscuits to start with.

My friend chose Mother's fried ravioli. Their marinara sauce was very nice and the ravioli had a fresh taste. The onions weren't part of this dish but were resting there after leaving the next dish.

 Her husband opted for one of the salads. I am afraid I don't remember which one this was. It may have been a special of the day. He enjoyed it.

I chose another special of the day. Wild mushroom risotto. It was delicious, full of flavor from the mushrooms. I forgot to ask what kind. Very creamy.

We were given three cookies at the end. Unfortunately the server didn't say what they were which might have been a problem since one was peanut butter. The chocolate chip cookie I had was good and so was the third cookie. 

It was a nice dinner. If one is looking for filling food that one-ups typical American cuisine and is a nice place to dine, Mother's Bistro fits the bill.

Friday, October 10, 2014

Water with Nodoguro

I decided since I haven't been out much this summer to see if Nodoguro could spin it's culinary magic a second time.

The theme for October was Water. Since this is Japanese cuisine the first thought is fish. The lovely painting of koi at the entrance also reminds us of this.

A koi mermaid imaginatively seconds that thought. Nodoguro's paintings are created by hostess Irena Roadhouse's father Alexander Kornienko. New ones appear for each theme and they add a lively air to each meal. Also Betta Fish floated in glass around the space and on top of the tables and bar. The decor gave a very nice feel for a watery environment.

Of course water is needed for so many things. The menu for the evening showed we would have more than fish. For without water we would have no plants.

As we were seated our chef Ryan Roadhouse was meticulously preparing the first course, grating matsutake mushroom. Zen was used as a word to describe his work but I think it's that attention to detail that is ingrained with chefs and other crafters in Japan. Every part of what is being created is important and one can spend years doing the same small task over and over before moving on to a more advanced one.

That Oregon matsutake ended up on top of charred Hakurei tofu with ikure. 

Underneath was creamy soft tofu flavored with charred turnip essence. This didn't even taste like tofu but more like milk. The  salmon roe was very fresh. Once again produce like the turnips were provided by Phantom Rabbit Farm.

Not  only does Mark Wooten of Phantom Rabbit Farm grow specialty produce for Japanese restaurants in Portland but he also is Ryan's right hand man in the kitchen.

 Next up was Hirame Usuzukuri which is flounder sliced thinly. Hirame is a seasonal fish served in the Fall and Winter. Ryan's preparation was to serve a slice from the fin and others from the body to demonstrate the differences in texture. This sashimi was delicate and wonderful.

We then experienced a very creative dish that paid homage to the water theme. Orca beans, scallop, uni and water pepper in a nice harmonious pouching liquid. Once again there were the different textures of the scallop added with the softness of the uni. I had never had water pepper before and it didn't take many little buds to bring a bit of spice to this dish.

Water isn't just fish and we were served a root vegetable sunomono. But it was not all root vegetables because there was a smoky seaweed at the base topped with sunchoke, turnip and kiwi berries. I like this kind of imaginative thinking that puts together new ingredients into a traditional dish. It worked really well with the vinegary flavor that sunomono has.

I've had air dried sanma before. I know it can end up being dry and salty. But not this time. Ryan salted and air dried the Pacific saury personally and then cooked it in the restaurant where it was served with citrus and grated karaine turnip from Phantom Rabbit Farm. What flavor! Definitely not dry or too salty. This was the best version of this dish I have ever had. It has inspired me to try cooking sanma soon. Although I know it won't be the same.

Clear broths are often served in traditional Japanese meals and we were able to experience a lovely matsutake osuimono. One thing I have learned is making dashi with different ingredients and getting the right balance is an art. Add in these nice matsutake and it was a treat to consume this taste of autumn.

While we were supping Ryan and Mark were busy plating our next treat.

And treat it was. Duck, soba and chrysanthemun leaves. I rarely eat meat except for fish but the way Nodoguro dishes it up, it's hard to decline. The duck was tender yet chewy and the flavor is another that I remember even today. It was excellent. The buckwheat groats were cooked with a little butter and oil and added an interesting texture and autumnal feeling. I felt like this was a dish one would find at a ryokan in rural Northern Japan. The bit of greens were a nice touch.

A break from the intense flavors followed with sweet dashi omelette. Tamagoyaki is considered a dish all sushi chefs need to master. So it's one way to see if a chef knows what he is doing. I've had a lot of it, some good, some not so good. Anyone who has made an omelette know it's not easy getting that fluffiness without breaking down the egg. Add in trying to achieve the right balance of sweet, salty and umami and you have Tamagoyaki. This time it was achieved wonderfully. Light and not too sweet or salty. I hope some day Ryan will hold classes on how to create this lovely omelette.

Nearing the end but the surprises were not over. We were served a chocolate and filbert beer float. An ingenious little dish suggested by Nodoguro's knowledgeable hostess Irena Roadhouse. Diners around me really enjoyed the effervescence of this chocolate ice cream and  filbert beer float. The bitterness of the beer kept the dish from being too sweet. Of course in Japan it's common to make sundaes out of unexpected things and this worked in an adult way.

The dinner ended with this lovely chestnut manju and a delicious cup of hojicha green tea. A very nice pairing to end this fall dinner.

What can I say? If you love Japanese food and live in the North West or will be visiting it's worth attending one of Nodoguro's dinners. It really is a treat to be able to experience fine Japanese dining, sosaku ryori, without having to fly to Japan. I wish I had tried Nodoguro sooner but better late than never.

Monday, October 6, 2014

Because of the great news today

I want to look back at a post I did a couple years ago on my art blog. So here is the link

Twin Peaks 20th Anniversary Art Show


Sunday, October 5, 2014

Farm to Boat Pop-up Dinner

Back in July I went to my first pop-up dinner in Portland, Oregon. In a rather interesting place on the Willamette River in the St. Johns neighborhood.



On a boat moored by Cathedral Park near St. Johns Bridge.

There were interesting and congenial guests including a couple furry ones.

The view was amazing.

Although being late afternoon in summer the sun was a bit warm and bright for those of us facing west.

The theme for the dinner was Farm to Boat. The boat belonged to Green Anchors Enterprises which is an interesting group of people farming, creating and living right there.

The farm part was bringing locally grown crops to be used in the dinner. These included Able Farms who was putting on the dinner, Nightlight Farm, Springwater Farm, and Rockwood Urban Farm. 

We started off with a Japanese ginger honey drinking vinegar from Genkai-Su which was reminiscent  to me of tart apples. It was a rather generous serving. Since we did not have other glasses it was a little bit of a challenge for me to finish it but I did.

Our chefs for the evening were Megan Denton of Able Farms

and Jane Hashimawari of Ippai.

Our first course was the albacore tuna crudo with golden beets, purslane topped with radish microgreens and sea salt. This was really delicious. I thought the radish sprouts were a nice way to add a little heat to the taste of the tender tuna.

We were offered a couple enjoyable wines by the entertaining Ewald Moseler. He is very knowledgeable about wine and specializes in the the Mosel River Valley area of Germany along with importing from all of Germany, Austria and exporting Oregon wines.

First up was a 2013 Zum Pinot Noir Rose from the Mosel River Valley. It was light and refreshing and went nicely with the fresh produce and delicate fish we were served. Later on we also had a lovely 2008 Riesling from WeingutVellenweider Winery also in the Mosel River Valley. It was a different profile from the usual Rieslings that are served and also delicious.

While we were eating not only did we enjoy good conversation but also different ships cruising by on the Willamette River.

Our next dish was also really good. The menu description was "NW style"- farm eggs, sardines, arbequina oil, castelvetrano olives, parsley, crescent potatoes, buckwheat microgreens. Although I think what was served was a bit different in that there were fresh tomatoes and green beans. The sardine was grated on top. No matter what the changes were, this was really good and was a lovely in between course. I would happily eat this again.

Next up was this excellent ling cod with pickled shitakes, savoy cabbage, miso buttered corn and sunflower microgreens.

I believe this was Jane Hashimawari dish and one of the few times I liked fresh greens under cooked fish. The pickled shitake mushrooms made a nice contrast to the tender fish and miso corn.

Just another photo of the wonderful view. Nice to have this and good conversation while we waited for each course to be served.

The dinner ended with these wonderful blueberries covered in Hyssop soft whip, currant jelly and nasturtiums.

Not just pretty but also sweet and light. This was served with a coffee from St. Johns Roasters. Since I am not a coffee drinker I could not say how it was but people seemed to enjoy it.

That was the end of an interesting experience. There were some issues but despite it all the food and drink were worth it and I met interesting people and was able to sit on a boat on the Willamette River for a bit. Not a bad experience at all.